Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Salvation: Faith or Works?

Galatians Chapter 3b

Beginning with this section we come to the climax of the epistle. In this section Paul will speak about the example of Abraham. Abraham is a wonderful illustration of how a person is saved by placing simple faith in God.

Abraham is the greatest bible example of a man being justified before God, because of their faith. It would be impossible for a person to argue that Abraham was saved by keeping the Law because the Law was not given until hundreds of years after Abraham died.

Some will try to argue that Abraham was justified because of his circumcision. Just as some argue that a person today is justified because of their baptism. Abraham’s circumcision was a badge of his faith in Christ. Outward expressions have no bearing on inward works.

The story of Abraham is one filled with trust, faith and reliance upon God. There are probably two high points in Abraham’s life however. The first was after his defeat of the kings of the East in Genesis 15. Having defeated these kings and rescued his nephew Lot’s family, along with the other families from Sodom and Gomorrah, he was offered a reward. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to reward Abraham for his help, but he refused to take it.

His refusal to take the reward spoke volumes. Abraham was saying that he was relying on God and no one else. Previous to this experience God had promised Abraham that he would give him a seed as innumerable as the sands of the seashore. After this experience Abraham reminds God of that promise.

It was at this point that God made Abraham to look into the heavens and promised him a seed as great as the stars in the heavens. This was Abraham’s response.

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”  Genesis 15:6

Today God has made a promise to you and me. God’s promise to mankind today is this.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Just as God promised Abraham a child, God has promised us a child. God promised that He would send His son to die for the sins of all mankind. Abraham believed the promise of God and it was counted for righteousness. Today we are asked to follow in the footsteps of Abraham and believe the promise of God. When we place our trust in God’s promise for salvation, it is counted to us for righteousness.

While Abraham believed God, he did ask God for a covenant or a contract. Let’s see what Abraham asked and what God’s response was.

Genesis 15:8-17

In these verses God made a covenant, but not a covenant with Abraham. Abraham was a man and he was prone to fail. Abraham could possibly do something that would make the contract null and void. Therefore Abraham was put to sleep and God made a contract with Himself. This contract was based on God’s faithfulness not Abrahams.

The same is true with you and me. Over 2,000 years ago Jesus went to a cross in order to pay the sin debt for you and me. Upon that cross God and His Son made a contract between themselves. Today God is not asking you to say your prayers, attend Sunday school, and give tithes to be saved. All God is asking you to do is believe what Jesus did on the cross. Have you put your faith in Christ?

If faith without works was good enough for Abraham then shouldn’t it be good enough for you and me? Paul tells us something pretty interesting in this chapter. He tells us that God preached the gospel to Abraham. This brings up the question, “When did God preach the gospel to Abraham?” Well I think this takes us to the second high point in Abraham’s life.

In Genesis 22 God asks Abraham to do something pretty intense. He asks him to offer his promised son as a sacrifice. Again Abraham is faced with the decision of whether to trust God. We all know the story, but I think that it is so important to mention again.

According to Hebrews 11:19 Abraham believed that, if he offered his son, then God would bring him back to life. I want to point out Abraham’s faith. At the bottom of that mountain Abraham spoke to his servants and told them to wait. Abraham told them that him and the lad would go up and worship and come back again. That was a tremendous statement of faith.

On top of the mountain Abraham did not spare his only son. He was fully prepared to offer Isaac just as the Lord asked. Of course God delivered Isaac, but in the mind of God he was as good as dead because Abraham had determined to kill him.

Through this experience God preached the gospel to Abraham. This was a picture of the way that God would willingly offer His only Son upon the cross. The difference is that while Isaac was delivered, Jesus was not. Jesus was offered and did suffer death.

Let me take this one step further. John Calvin was quoted as saying “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.” Notice what James says about the faith of Abraham in his epistle.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith Abraham believed God, and I was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”  James 2:20-23

In the life of Abraham his faith led him to willingness to offer his son. He didn’t just believe God. That faith produces works.  The reason that so many people today are not busier is because they are lacking faith. “A living, dynamic faith will produce works.” These works however have no bearing on ones salvation.

The question that should be asked to those that proclaim you must live right to maintain or merit salvation is this, “Do you keep the law twenty four hours a day, seven days a week?” If you are in the flesh then you fail God often. The Law is not a religious cafeteria where you can pick and choose which laws to keep. When you fail God, even one time, then you are cursed by the Law you are supposedly upholding.

Let’s say for an example I live in the state of Tennessee for 34 years, as I have. If I live all those years and never break one of the laws of the state of Tennessee I’m not going to receive a medal for that.

Let’s take this one step further and say that I go to Wal-Mart this afternoon and am caught stealing something. Guess what is going to happen to me? I am going to be punished for my wrong. I can argue “I have lived all of these years and never done anything wrong.” The state is going to tell me that all those years of good deeds mean nothing and that I am going to be punished for my crime.

It’s the same way with the Law of God. The Law does not reward you for doing right. The Law punishes you for doing wrong.

Faith and Law are two opposite principals. For a person to try and combine them is ridiculous. You are either going to live by faith or you are going to live by the law. You cannot combine these two.

God made promises to Abraham and was faithful to fulfill them. Even so God has made promises to you and me through Jesus Christ. Abraham was saved by placing faith in what God would do. Today we are saved by placing our faith in what God has already done.